A Brief State of the Writer

I’m fighting the urge to hibernate today. Not because of yesterday’s election-that-was-more-of-a-selection in many places. Mostly because of the weather; it’s very gray and windy outside. So of course, today’s the day for all the errands that have been piling up, right?

Better to do it before winter shows up on Friday; the temperature is supposed to drop 50 degrees in 12 hours.

So I’m going to throw the doors open for your input on a few things:

– What do you think of the changes MGC is considering in our content and engagement? (for those who haven’t been following this, we’re considering doing a bit more formal teaching) Do you want me, specifically, to cover any particular topics? Do you want me to continue with goofy rambles about my horse and garden?

-Some of you are doing NaNo; how’s that going? Give us a progress report.

-How are your gardens, home improvement projects, and other non writing projects going?

-Share the best or funniest paragraph or exchange of dialogue you’ve written lately.

My answers to the above, because I don’t want to leave you hanging:

-I prefer goofy rambles to teaching. I’m not a very good teacher, especially not of writing, but I’ll try if there’s something people really want to know.

-I’m doing modified NaNo, which is normal for me. Some years, I cycle between projects for 50k words; this year, I’m merely aiming for 30k words because my writing muscles have atrophied over the past year. It’s been going pretty well; I’m slightly ahead, which is good because I anticipate taking a few days off over Thanksgiving.

-The garden is undergoing a reconfiguration, in which I have more, smaller raised beds. The large beds were structurally unstable and starting to collapse. So, now that most of the plants have died back for the winter, it’s time to move things around.

-Most of my writing is long and drawn out, or requires a lot of backstory to understand, but this is somewhat accessible once you know one of the characters is named Michael (it’s two soldiers talking, so, salty language warning is in effect):

“Are you telling me that, in three combat tours, backup has showed up every time you ask for it?”

“So far, yeah. Do I look dead?”

“Tell me- do you also carry a flaming sword into battle? Because that’s some archangel-level shit, right there.”

Now it’s time to run errands, before the rain starts. Fight nice, kids, and it’s fine if you want to repaint the walls, just make sure to wash the brush and put the lid back on the paint can after you’re done.

19 thoughts on “A Brief State of the Writer

  1. Write what you want, that’s what writers do. What you wrote today is fine. Tell about yourself, what you’re doing, rambling works for me. Problems that you’re having with plots or characters or being just being “up” or “down”. I find all of it interesting and in the great scheme of things, meaningless.

  2. My NaNo has been altered. I’m doing one rendered page a day for my kid picture books. I just finished the first one (it was already 1/2 done….since March….) So nice to have that part done. I do them in three parts. I render the image (in 3d), then I do postwork on the image to fix little things, and add special effects as needed. Then I add the words to each page as I assemble it in InDesign (a really old version of InDesign, but it works!) Then it can go for ebook and print conversion. And then I do the covers and all the “put it online work”. So, for this one, phase 1 is complete. As I continue for NaNo, I’ll start phase two and then phase three. And if Nov is still not done, I’ll start the next book. And maybe even a Christmas book… Or start Coloring books to go with the picture books.

    Gardens are dead. But greenhouse is hanging in there. We’ll see how it goes after this deep freeze of the next 2 weeks. The house plants are still doing well, and I have fought back the odd fungusy thing which keeps attacking the succulents.

    I haven’t written any witty dialog recently (working on kid’s education books…not particularly witty), but one of my all time favorites from an unfinished story (Secondhand Werewolf) The last line is my favorite, but you need the previous sentences to understand it. :

    “So, these “werewolves” just live among regular people – no tags, shots, nothing?” I asked.

    “They’re not dogs, Kayleigh, even if they look like it when they are in their shifted form. The amount of “wolfiness” varies from person to person. It’s more the “primeval dog” look than anything. And yes, they just live among us, they were…are…people, too.”

    “Yes, but why don’t we know about them? Huh? Why aren’t they in National Geographic magazines or on Animal Planet or Discovery Channel specials? Why aren’t they in a museum or zoo or encyclopedia? Why aren’t they on the internet?” I wanted to know how such a big thing could be so obviously missing from scientific and news scrutiny.

    “There probably are a number of them on the internet,” Joshua murmured. I gave him a mean look.

    “Shouldn’t they wear a bracelet or something? ‘I’m a Werewolf, if found give me pizza and call a vet.'” I waved my hands around in the air to emphasize my point. I was very worried now that such things could be lurking around every deli and butcher’s shop.

    As for what you write – as others have said, write what inspires you for the day. Just because some people are doing more teaching, doesn’t mean it needs to be all school! You can be the cool rebel kid out behind the buildings….playing D&D…

  3. I like the teaching aspect from time to time. The biggest problem for me is that if you guys accumulate teaching posts about the actual publishing process, and then tag them so people can go back and read them… they go out of date.

    I’m tearing my hair out trying to make a paperback cover for Amazon and suspecting that the answer is to open a different browser.

    I think the educational post here would be the one that explains a bit about ebook vs paperback and why it’s not a seamless conversion.

    And the other educational question would be whether it is better to publish a paperback and an ebook at the same time — now that it is clear to me that this might delay my ebook by some measurable amount of time.

    And I don’t have an author photo. And I can’t get rid of that field.

  4. …looks up from a large piece of vellum, ink-laden quill suspended in the air,,, “You want a report, do you? Well, you see — I’m busy drawing the national & imperial boundaries on my new world map for my current series. Geography is destiny, you know. Rivers, mountains, trade, defense, resources…”

    1. Oh man, I love maps. I used to draw them all the time for the world I created. I haven’t done one in something like 15 years. I’ve never felt my “skills of an artist” were that good in the first place…

      1. …which is why I use generated worlds (Fractal Terrain from ProFantasy) and keep monkeying with the settings until I come up with a plausible layout. The maps will never appear to the readers (except for those who read the blog) but they give me a firm foundation for which nations are near which other nations, their typical trade goods (in and out), their weather, travel arrangements, resources, terrain, limitations, etc.

        All that lets me refer realistically to background knowledge that all the characters know, and make the gears of the story crank along more smoothly. (“Where does the tea-equivalent come from? Oh — THAT place, and that’s why it’s so expensive/cheap.”)

        1. ProFantasy, eh? That is something I’ll need to look into. I’ve considered using maps I’ve played in Civilization, but that seems cheesy and I rarely play one that meshes with the world in my head. Plus, I’m still playing IV so the maps are based on a square grid and are not as realistic as the hexagonal ones from V forward. I’ve been going it alone for so long I had no idea how many resources are out there beyond just googling things. I’m sure their algorithm has no idea what to make of me.

        2. I was reading a complaint about pirates not on trading routes. The result is The Witch Child and the Scarlet Fleet. 0:)

  5. I’ve said before that I’d like to see some more lessons on marketing. I don’t know if you’re the right person to do it, but I want to know how you go about starting to market when you have absolutely nothing.

    NaNo is going okay. While the kid’s in school, I can write. Word wise, I’m over 18K. In terms of getting through my outline, I’m about a third of the way through the chapter count. Quality wise…well, NaNo isn’t about quality, it’s about quantity, everyone knows that.

    I hate gardening, but we did put in a new little brick patio recently. I think it turned out pretty well.

    As far as an amusing bit of dialog goes:

    “Is now a good time for you?”

    “I can’t think of a better one. We need to find that curse as quickly as possible.”

    “Wait, is this going to involve digging through all the junk at the Tower?” asked Yelena. “Do you have any idea what a mess that’s going to make of my clothes?”

    “Shut up, Yelena,” Kenneth said. Normally, her vanity was something he could take in stride, but at the moment, it was time for every Fae to do what he or she could. “I’ll help you find a laundry service later.”

  6. I’m not NaNo’ing because I didn’t have an outline ready. There was the year where I learned to not rush outlines for NaNo. . . .

  7. The main character of my WIP, having been defeated in his first attempt to converse with a lively young woman in his high school algebra class, is watching who she is watching instead of listening to the teacher. There’s also a smart but rather torpid fat kid who has inexplicably caught his attention. Nobody else in the class is interesting, yet, although If I follow the threads of social interaction, something should turn up. In the meantime, I need to look up a 50 year old high school yearbook (not mine!) and later this month, drive about a hundred miles out into the desert for a model rocket launch. In the name of research, of course.

  8. Process rambles, the “I’m doing this to accomplish that” stuff is something you do that I appreciate.

    Also your horse stuff. It reminds me of that essay, was it Thud and Blunder? or a different one? wherin a horse was a miraculous motorcycle, poking fun at the misuse of horses in fantasy. Pam does the horse stuff, too, sometimes. I like the horse stuff: I know horses enough to catch blatantly wrong but not to do them confidently right.

    Please. Let the horse step on the hero’s foot. It builds character. (Does he swear? How does he swear? Does he bite his tongue only because there are ladies present?)

    In fact, would you like to write sometime about hooves, how to trim, how not to trim, shoes, barefoot, how feral horses get away with having their feet untended, and how and why a mount throwing a shoe slows a hero down?

    1. I researched horses for a fantasy book I was working on several years ago and ended up having my characters move by foot most of the time since I knew I would get it totally wrong, and given the setting and circumstances it almost never made sense for said characters to have access to well-fed, super-fit steeds. When I do use them, I do NOT use them like cars.

  9. Currently this writer is sloooooowly continuing to write Book 7, currently called “Short People Got
    No Reason.” At the moment, the Bad Guy isn’t doing anything so the dragon is making out with the aliens. She really gets around.

    Fall landscaping here at Chez Phantom consists of driving the fairway mower over the dead leaves a few more times, they mulch nicely that way. Planning some mulching for tomorrow.

    I did something I’ve never done before a couple days ago, I made a shooting board with a 90 degree fence that attaches by a sliding dovetail wedge. I used just a handsaw, chisels and a router-plane for the socket, and I made the sliding dovetail on the wedge with a wooden dovetail plane. And, miracle of miracles, it actually is 90 degrees, right on.

    A snippet of my improper dragon:

    “I am bringing my other self over, it has better sensors than this humanoid drone. Perhaps we should warn these new humans there will be a dragon peering in the window,” murmured Toyotama.

    “You don’t want to see George laugh like a hyena?” snickered Ginny at the faces she imagined them making.

    “I do, but I’m trying to be more understanding of the regular humans,” said Toyotama regally. “You wouldn’t know this, but showing up unannounced, peering in windows and looming over people is classic dragon humor. My arrival on Earth was supposed to be the comedy highlight of the social year on Homeworld. All the biocreatures running away screaming, me calling them back and insisting my visit was peaceful, very entertaining. Imagine my disappointment to be met by stone-faced Madam Chen, implacable George McIntyre and the very unimpressed Valkyries. So sad, such a wasted opportunity,” she concluded with a regretful sigh.

    “You were making the best of the worst Hail Mary operation in dragon history,” scoffed Charlotte with uncharacteristic bluntness. “The Jeweled Princess herself, gating into the middle of the feral biocreature outbreak? Please.”

    “Do I detect a certain impatience with Imperial politics on your part, dear Miss Smith?” asked Toyotama with a wide smile and patently false concern. “Poor thing. Here, let me sooth your frayed nerves.” She put a comforting arm over Charlotte’s shoulders and gave her a little kiss on the cheek. “There we are, all better.”

  10. I like the things I read here. Even when they don’t pertain directly to what I’ve got going on I still find some value in them, especially goofy rambles.

    I did NaNo every year of my second stint in Japan. The first time I struggled to hit 30k (or was it 50k?) but the other three years I came close to 100k each. The first novel was trash but it gave me some characters I’ve now been working with for years and the other three years provided a pretty good basis for my fantasy stuff which I’m aiming to finally release indie next year. I’ve been back in Michigan for more than 7 years now and at my previous job I didn’t have the time to do it, and now that I do my projects are not lined up enough to participate. Oh well. Maybe next year.

    We’re in the housing market right now and it’s terrible so we have no garden. Yet.

    Here is some saucy dialogue from my current series. One character likes to use more spicy language, but I’m toning it down here because this seems like a PG-13 sort of place. The other is in a long-distance relationship with “Pen’s” brother:

    “Yeah. I heard she was having maritals or something with Sandra. Did it have anything to do with Delaney?”

    “Delaney? No. I think they reconciled.”

    “Nice. Pen’s got an open mind. There’s hope for me yet.”

    “Not that open.”

    Ash laughed. “Wow, Leah, that actually kind of hurt!”

    Leah nearly smiled at her.

    “Whatever. I do have to get some work done. I’m glad I was here to [eff] up the little… What was it you called him?”

    “The Littlest General.”

    “Damn, you went away for the summer and came back ready for battle! I think I’m going to like working alongside you this year!”

    “I can’t take credit for that. It was Mako-tan.”

    “Makotan? His name’s Makotan? Sounds like an Indian or something…”

    “Makoto, actually. Mako-tan is how a little girl would say Mako-chan, which is how you refer to someone in a really familiar… You don’t really care at all, do you?”

    “I do. And everything you just said was fascinating. But whatever. What’s The Little General–”


    “Littlest, even better!” Ash laughed…

  11. Cicek Hatun will not buy the goblets with hunting scenes, because she says that in Islam it is haram – forbidden – to portray the human figure.”

    “It is?” said Gian, momentarily distracted. “And yet the sultan is having a battle scene painted in his divan.”

    “I think that Cicek Hatun, who converted to Islam to marry the sultan, is more observant of the rules than the sultan himself,” Caterina said. “She also mentioned that it is haram to drink wine, as the sailors on the carrack told us. Messer Gritti confirmed that. And yet did you not say that the sultan took wine to relieve the pain of his wound?”

    “I suppose,” Gian said thoughtfully, “a Turkish visitor to our country might be somewhat confused, if he tried to deduce the rules of the Christian religion from the behavior of actual Christians…

  12. My garden is 90% ready for winter. The last 10% is me trying to tell the plants to go to sleep, because this weekend is NOT the time to flower. Four of the roses are ignoring my warnings. The cooler recent weather has invigorated them, alas, and we’re supposed to be 22 F on Saturday AM. The grass seed has also benefited from the cooler weather, and is coming up. I just have to keep removing the neighbor’s leaves from atop said grass seed.

    Funniest bit: [Adrescu is pacing the wooden wall-walk of his keep, being irritated, frustrated, irked, peeved, and so on. Radut is partly crippled from an old injury.]

    He heard Radut’s voice speaking to one of the soldiers on watch. Uneven steps approached and stopped. “Yes?” Adrescu growled.

    “First, if you wear a hole in the floor, fall into the courtyard, and land on the dung heap, people will laugh, my lord.”

    He turned and made a rude gesture in his half-brother’s direction. Radut grinned. “Now, now. The Church frowns on such things among kin of closer than the fourth degree. And I’m not one of those southern heretics, so no, thank you.”

    Adrescu had to smile in turn. “Nor are we married to each other. What else?”

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